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Title: Textualizing Dreams in a Late Ming Encyclopedia
Authors: Vance, Brigid Elisabeth
Advisors: Elman, Benjamin A
Contributors: History Department
Keywords: Book
Subjects: History
Asian studies
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: My dissertation centers on the meaning of dreams as interpreted by literati in the late Ming (1368-1644), viewed through the lens of the 1636 encyclopedia Forest of Dreams. This thirty-four-juan tome is the largest extant Chinese dream encyclopedia and includes nearly 5,000 dream interpretations, twenty-five nightmare exorcism and incantation methods, and a series of explanatory charts and graphs that depict the formation of dreams within the body. Forest of Dreams not only presented information on dreams, but also offered public access to a toolkit of esoteric knowledge employed by anonymous savants, or dream interpreters. Through a text-centric study of Forest of Dreams, I convey the ways in which dreams were transformed from private acts into public knowledge. First, by analyzing the contents and overarching organizational structure of Forest of Dreams, I offer insights into the assumptions its compilers held about dreams and about textual organization. Next, I analyze the motivations of the compilers and readers of Forest of Dreams and briefly address the question of audience and readership. Based on a reading of the encyclopedic section on dream exorcism, Forest of Dreams can also be simultaneously read as a scholarly endeavor to classify, systematize, and medicalize. I rethink the parameters of the term "medicalize," pushing the category beyond the somatic to include the psychological, therapeutic, religious, and social. Finally, I illuminate the method of glyphomancy (the dissection of Chinese characters as used in dream interpretation), focusing on the shared, public knowledge of characters and the relationship between this shared knowledge and dream interpretation. Throughout the dissertation, I make a distinction between dreams per se and written, recorded, or textualized dreams. I maintain that the experienced dream is inherently inaccessible and intangible, albeit with residual emotional after-effects upon waking. Because written dreams were consciously produced and constructed, they reveal what their recorders believed about dreams. These textualized dreams transcended the individual, becoming shared, social dreams. Reading through layers of dreams also uncovers the existence of dream interpretation practitioners and the interesting overlaps between highbrow and lowbrow knowledge in early modern China
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History

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